Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Back to the Beginning?

Having finished, or nearly finished, so many quilts of late it would appear my creative self needs a change of pace. I currently have little interest in piecing or building quilt tops out of my Parts Department. It would be scary if it weren't for the fact that I have developed an avid desire to work with a hand needle and colorful floss instead.

I began my needlework career as many others have, as a child doing simple embroidery. By the time I was twenty I had gone through latch hook rug making and settled into needlepoint in a big way. I dabbled in blackwork and cross stitch but never did much more embroidery. It would appear it's time to circle back around to the early days of my needlework career.

If you've been visiting regularly over the last several years you'll know I enjoy bead embroidery, inspired by workshops with and books by Robin Atkins. I followed Sharon B. over on her blog Pintangle for a couple of years too. I've always retained an interest in the type of embroidery done on crazy quilts although I never fell deeply into that particular pool. Sharon's long band sampler really piqued my interest however, and has stayed with me. Something of that ilk has been on my nebulous needlework bucket list. Now I find myself lusting after Nancy's hand dyed floss over at the Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe. I finished up the litter of Cocker spaniel puppies I've been stitching on a dish towel (but I'm waiting for the next stitch along post to share that). What to do next?

Almost without thinking - the best way for me to begin some projects  - I got out embroidery transfer patterns I've acquired from Sublime Stitching, selected a couple of images, and ironed them onto a strip of bleached muslin. I purposefully cut the strip 8.5" wide and from selvage to selvage. I've folded it in half to get a piece 8.5" wide by about 22" long.

I wanted a place where I could stitch without having to think about what it's going to be turned into later, where I could play with color combinations more freely and practice my embroidery skills and stitches. Something that didn't feel too precious,. That was a problem I ran into when I tried to do this with a piece of linen several years ago. There's no way this will become the lengthy sampler Sharon has created (nowhere near!) but hopefully it will be a place for me to play. That element of play, of freedom, is something I need to cultivate. I grew up in the era when the goal was to make handmade things look machine made, "perfect." And being a hyper-responsible type I've had a very hard time shaking that upbringing. Even now I'm having trouble deciding what color to make this Virgin's robes. Lime green and fuchsia? Or the more traditional red and blue? I need to just delve into my box(es) of embroidery floss and see what turns up. But oh, how I would like to try out Nancy's floss on this!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hands 2 Help 2017

This year's Hands2Help quilt drive is coming to a close. I actually had my quilt top finished early this time around. Which was a good thing because it took more time to get the binding on and stitched down than I would have expected. But the quilt was laundered and labelled and sent on its' way last week. Woohoo!

Of the three official charities in the program this year I chose to make a quilt for the International Institute of St. Louis. These folks help immigrants and their families become productive new Americans. I was grateful for an opportunity to show my support for those fleeing dangerous or poverty stricken areas of the world. Of course the first thing I did was to rummage about in my Parts Department to see what blocks jumped out at me, eager to be put to good use.

I figure everyone can use an extra chicken in their pot (or basket, as the case may be).

From there I pulled out other blocks with chicken prints or in warm tones. I began with a medallion setting in mind...

...but eventually turned it into more of a strippy set with long sashing between three primary columns.

James did simple allover quilting with loops.

After making a binding that turned out to be a poor color choice I found a better, darker tone and put that on. I'm very happy with the way this turned out, and even happier to have beat the deadline with time to spare!

You can see the other quilts that have been made for this year's H2H quilt drive over at Confessions of a Fabric Addict. If you ever need inspiration for a new project the link party will be a great place to look. :- )

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ten Years Later

About a week ago I realized I'd missed my 10 year blogiversary. I haven't been up to posting about it either. Haven't been online much at all really. Wish there was a better reason for this absence than poor health. Well, a happier reason anyway. Poor health is a pretty good reason afterall. It keeps me from doing a lot of things I'd really like to do. {sigh}

I haven't put away my embroidery projects since the last SAL check-in (see previous post).

One of the Cocker puppy transfers didn't print as darkly as I seem to need these days so I've had the original pattern out to guide my stitches. I'll show you the progress in the next SAL post on 4 June. The little fox needlepoint case will very likely be finished by then too. I have another case on order but I'm still racking my brains for something equally mindless to stitch for those occasions when my brain shuts down. I've reached the point where I'm making duplicates of cases I've already made once!

I've assembled the blue Patience Corner blocks into a flimsy.

Oh no! I think I swapped a block accidentally. I'm going to have to go back in and fix that. 

I want to find a medium to large scale floral print to use for a border. That may take a while so this has been relegated to the closet until I feel up to the shopping trip.

I made these three Scrappy Trip blocks for Scrap Happy Day but then missed the event.

They look pretty muddy to me on their own. Hopefully they will blend in well when I finally get around to setting the blocks into a quilt top.

One bright spot in the past week was the purchase and installation of a lilac in our front yard. I've always loved the flowers and for the last couple of years have threatened to steal blooms off the bushes in the neighborhood. For Mother's Day this year I decided to just buy a starter shrub for myself. James helped me get it planted. I not sure my husband has even noticed the new addition! Now we have to get the two David Austin Roses I ordered planted in the weed flower bed before the weather turns really warm. This is going to involve moving at least a couple of established plants. I haven't yet quite figured out what I'm going to do with them, which is one reason the roses are still sitting in their pots. That and the consecutive days of rain we've had. I've got to get them in the ground before the air quality around here diminishes too. Time to get up off my butt!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Stitch Along in May

I've been doing more needlework than usual lately. To begin with, I've finished the little needlepoint case that will be nearly a twin to the original. This is where I was the last time I showed it to you:

And here we have it finished!

After blocking the black floss covered the white canvas a tiny bit better. By the way, that big knot of leftover black floss I was looking for never turned up. I actually ended up buying a brand new skein of floss just for this case. Fortunately floss is not expensive. Although if you have a taste for hand dyed floss I've found a wonderful source in The Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe. I've been drooling over her latest batches and trying to figure out an easy way to put them to good use. Of course, I have plenty of iron-on transfer patterns I could use. Right now I just don't have much creative energy. I want someone to hand me the fabric with the colors and stitches already selected so I can just sit and stitch!

I've made progress on the little fox needlepoint case too. From this:

To this:

You may remember I chose to substitute a purple for the gray that was provided for the background areas. This particular purple has turned out to be a little strong for my taste but hopefully someone else will enjoy it.

I've also done a bit more on the dish towel with the litter of Cocker Spaniel puppies frolicking along the hem. It's hard to get the whole width of the towel in one shot so let me just show you where progress has been made.

This puppy has been completed since this photo was taken, as have the leaves of the plant he's inspecting.

This is the last puppy of the litter.

He may very well be completed by the next SAL on 4 June. There's a lot of excellent needlework to be seen in the rest of the SAL. Make yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and take the tour!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Blue Patience Corners

Last year I requested 12" (finished) Patience Corner blocks from my local guild members for a quilt for our women's shelter. I meant to wait a full year to set the blocks but I think I've received all that will be coming in. I had also thought to have 49 blocks to set 7 x 7 for an 84" quilt. There were 40 blocks when I counted them up the other day. A couple weren't the right size due to cutting errors and one wasn't made in prints that would blend with the rest of the group. Of the remaining blocks I fully expect one or two to be shy of the full 12.5" for easy piecing and I'll have a couple left over. It would be simple to make more blocks but I don't want to. Instead I'm going to set 36 blocks 6 x 6 and then add 6" of border all the way around. I don't have a clue yet what that border will be; I'll worry about that later. 

 Because it was so successful in the quilt I made for my granddaughter (which was inspired by the request for the blocks in blue)...

I began by laying out the blocks the same arrangement. There were quite a few blocks with yellow squares within the blue framework. So many, in fact, I was able to make a giant X to begin designing around!

This may not be the picture of the final block placements but you get the idea. Once I had them arranged to my satisfaction I couldn't help but wonder how they would look set straight, all facing the same direction.

Darn if I don't like it better this way! I was afraid that once I'd turned the blocks I'd want to rearrange them again according to the values of the blues. I did change a couple of blocks around but more for a better placement of the focal patches than for the balance of blues. Another perk of this arrangement is that seams that ought to line up but don't won't be nearly as obvious. All I have to do now is sew them together. :- )